Putin Grants Russian Citizenship to NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.
September 26, 2022Updated: September 27, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sept. 26 granted full Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked information about the U.S. agency’s widespread domestic surveillance operations during the Obama administration.

Snowden, 39, fled to Russia in 2013 from the United States after he posted secret files that revealed the NSA’s operations. U.S. authorities have for years sought to bring Snowden back and arrest him on espionage charges.

Snowden is one of about 75 foreign nationals who were granted Russian citizenship, Russian state-run media reported, citing a presidential decree issued by Putin. The decree also was published on a Russian government website.

The former NSA contractor was granted permanent Russian residency in 2020. At the time, Snowden said he planned to apply for Russian citizenship and wouldn’t renounce his U.S. citizenship. In 2020, a U.S. appeals court found that the program Snowden had exposed was unlawful and said that U.S. officials who had publicly defended it weren’t telling the truth.

“Will Snowden be drafted?” Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the state media outlet RT, wrote in a darkly humorous tone on her Telegram channel. She was referring to last week’s speech from Putin in which the Russian leader said he would partially mobilize his country’s forces amid the Ukraine conflict.

But Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the RIA news agency that his client couldn’t be called up because he hadn’t previously served in the Russian army. He said that Snowden’s wife, Lindsay Mills, who gave birth to a son in 2020, would apply for citizenship.

‘I Didn’t Cooperate’

Putin, a former KGB official, publicly stated in 2017 that Snowden was wrong to leak intelligence secrets but didn’t believe him to be a traitor to the United States. Since moving to Russia, Snowden rarely makes remarks on Russian domestic affairs and reportedly keeps a low profile.

“I didn’t cooperate with the Russian intelligence services—I haven’t and I won’t,” he told NPR in 2019. “I destroyed my access to the archive. … I had no material with me before I left Hong Kong, because I knew I was going to have to go through this complex multi-jurisdictional route.”

Snowden in 2019 told news outlets that he was willing to return to the United States if he could be guaranteed a fair trial.

“People look at me now and they think I’m this crazy guy, I’m this extremist or whatever. Some people have a misconception that [I] set out to burn down the NSA,” Snowden also told NPR. “But that’s not what this was about. In many ways, 2013 wasn’t about surveillance at all. What it was about was a violation of the Constitution.”

Since then, he’s amassed more than 5.3 million followers on Twitter.  There was no immediate reaction from Snowden on social media or elsewhere after he was granted Russian citizenship.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.